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New Federal Title IX Complaint Filed

The Campaign for Southern Equality has filed a Title IX complaint against the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) & the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The complaint alleges that North Carolina’s public schools are systematically marginalizing LGBTQ students & in doing so violate civil rights protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 & North Carolina schools’ obligation to provide every student with a safe school environment free from discrimination. This complaint is focused on SB49 the so-called "Parents' Bill of Rights" aka the "Don't Say LGBTQ" law & includes testimonials from 24 parents, teachers, students & administrators. Craig White, Supportive Schools Director for the Campaign for Southern Equality stated, “When S.B. 49 passed we imagined all of the ways that students, parents, educators & the North Carolina school system at large would be damaged. This complaint shows that those harms are actually happening right now in schools across North Carolina – endangering & marginalizing LGBTQ+ students & students from LGBTQ+ families. The state’s public education system is now clouded by fear, discrimination & censorship that interferes with students’ ability to learn. It is time for school districts to stop implementing S.B. 49 – because the anti-LGBTQ+ policies that this law requires are patently incompatible with the Title IX protections to which every LGBTQ+ student is entitled.” Since the passage of S.B. 49 Campaign for Southern Equality has maintained that school districts cannot both follow S.B. 49 & remain in compliance with Title IX. Based in Asheville, NC the Campaign for Southern Equality promotes full LGBTQ equality across the South. Their work is rooted in commitments to equity in race, gender & class. 

GLAAD Award Nominations Announced

After accepting the iconic Governors Award at the 2023 Emmys Ceremony GLAAD announced the nominees for their 35th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO stated, “For 35 years, the GLAAD Media Awards has provided the global stage for LGBTQ creators, alongside industry talent & leaders to be celebrated & supported. At a time when the LGBTQ community is under attack by false narratives & misinformation, when less than half of American say they are familiar with transgender & nonbinary people & when one in five Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, this year’s nominees powerfully reflect the realities of LGBTQ existence today, in our communities & around the globe. Amid a summer of union strikes across Hollywood, the stakes have never been higher to maintain the progress of LGBTQ visibility & representation across all media, from film, television, music, journalism, publishing & more.” Since 1990 the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally. The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies, which funds GLAAD’s work to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance & visibility in media will be held this year in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday March 14th & in New York City, at the Hilton Midtown, on Saturday, May 11th. Nominees for the 35th Annual GLAAD Media Awards reflect work published, released or broadcast between January 1st & December 31st of 2023. This year GLAAD announced 310 nominees across 33 categories. 

Mink Stole Idol Worship Events (AUDIO)

This week I talked with San Francisco's own drag impresario & filmmaker Peaches Christ about her upcoming northeast tour of “Idol Worship: An Evening with Mink Stole & Peaches Christ”. Coming off their sold-out San Francisco shows they’ll be kicking off their northeast Queer theatre tour in Salem, MA February 14th Valentine’s Day presented by Salem Horror Fest & Cinema Salem. If you're a fan of John Waters' films, Divine, drag history or cult movies you don't want to miss this fabulous event. This heartfelt cabaret show starring living legend & cult film icon Mink Stole alongside Christ who have been close friends for 2 decades will include an evening of storytelling, film clips & performance in a wildly entertaining & uncensored exposé that is as hilarious as it is revealing. The tour then continues on to the Columbus Theatre, Providence, RI on February 15th at 8P, Green Room 42 570 Tenth Avenue in NYC on February 16th & 17th, Punch Line Philly, Philadelphia, PA February 18th & then in DC at The Comedy Loft on February 20th. Tickets prices vary with VIP tickets including a post-show meet & greet in a private room & a photo with Mink & Peaches. Mink Stole is an original Dreamlander the term for John Waters’ cast & crew regulars across his 50+ years as a filmmaker. Mink has co-starred in every single Waters film dating back to his notorious 1967 short “Roman Candles”. She then created the iconic characters of Connie Marble in “Pink Flamingos” Taffy Davenport in “Female Trouble” & Dottie Hinkle in “Serial Mom” to name a few. Peaches & Mink will share her decades of cult filmmaking on this intimate tour & more. I talked to Peaches about what she hopes to accomplish with “Idol Worship: An Evening with Mink Stole & Peaches Christ” & her spin on our LGBTQ issues. LISTEN  

OHIO Senate Bans Trans Kids Healthcare

The Ohio Senate voted to override Republican Governor Mike DeWine veto of HB 68 a combination bill that bans essential health care for transgender youth & prohibits transgender girls & women from school sports in grades K-12. Gov. Mike DeWine had vetoed the bill last month after meeting with transgender people, parents of transgender youth & their health care providers. DeWine said parents told him “…their child would be dead today if not for the care they received from Ohio’s children’s hospitals.” According to Equality Ohio 585 people submitted testimony opposing HB 68 since it was introduced compared to only approximately 40 supporters of the bill & many of those were not from Ohio. The Ohio House voted to override DeWine’s veto earlier this month. Implementation of HB 68 will go into effect after a 90-day period, on April 23rd. Sarah Kate Ellis GLAAD CEO & President stated, “Ohio’s extremist lawmakers inexplicably refused facts, expert testimony & deeply personal pleas from families who understand how this bill will bring pain & harm. No one should be treated like an outcast in their own state or be forced to leave to receive health care they count on. The bill is inaccurate from start to finish, even in the name, as it does nothing to keep children safe & interferes in parents’ rights to support their children. Ohio deserves leaders who protect all citizens, who believe in facts & science & a future where everyone can be safe & belong in their home state.” 

Hollywood Pride Florida Street Festival

The third annual “My Hollywood Pride” street festival celebrating South Florida’s LGBTQ community returns to Hollywood, FL. as the first Pride of 2024 globally this weekend January 28th with the theme “Pride Starts Here!”. Todd Delmay, My Hollywood Pride 2024 Chair stated, “The importance of My Hollywood Pride has grown exponentially each year. Our focus of making the festival event inclusive for young people, families & our allies has definitely contributed to its uniqueness & the way it is embraced as a touchstone in the Pride calendar. It isn't just the attacks on our community that draw us together, but the opportunity to show love & acceptance for everyone, especially young people who need it the most.” Jeff Oliverio, Fundraising Director concluded, “My Hollywood Pride is an important event for our community as we have successfully launched a Pride event in a city that is not known for having a large LGBTQ community. This event demonstrates that LGBTQ people & their allies are part of every community & celebrates our diversity while creating more visibility. The current environment is challenging for LGBTQ events due to the attacks aimed at our community through state legislation which creates fear for sponsors & local governments to continue their support of Pride events. We hope that My Hollywood Pride will grow & evolve & that our model for an inclusive, family Pride event will stand out & be a destination where everyone can feel at home!” There will be fabulous events throughout the weekend-long celebration. “My Hollywood Pride” is presented by the Quadraci-Cabrera family local philanthropists who have supported the event since its inception in partnership with the National LGBTQ Task Force. 

Advocates For Trans Equality Formed

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) & the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) officially announced their intent to merge & create a new organization called Advocates for Trans Equality (A4TE). Once the merger takes effect Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra, executive director of TLDEF & Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of NCTE will lead the new organization as CEO & Executive Director. Marra stated, “With double the resources, expertise & fearless commitment to justice, we will be a powerful national organization to lead the next chapter of the transgender rights movement. Advocates for Trans Equality will show exactly what can be materially achieved when trans advocates come together & seek nothing less than equality for trans people in America.” Heng-Lehtinen concluded, “NCTE & TLDEF already have a long history of partnering to fight for the legal rights & protection of transgender people. Even though we’ve achieved many victories over that time, it feels like it was just a warm-up for the journey ahead. With a record number of attacks on trans people & trans rights, now is the time to unite & use our combined power & influence to advance trans equality in bigger & bolder ways than our organizations could alone.” By combining strengths into a single entity Advocates for Trans Equality will be a highly influential & effective voice ensuring that trans experiences & perspectives guide the national movement for trans rights. Advocates for Trans Equality will house both a 501(c)3 organization that focuses on litigation and public education and a 501(c)4 that will influence policy to fight for transgender equality at local, state & federal levels.

Wisconsin Passes Dangerous Legislation

The Wisconsin legislative session kicked off this week with Republican extremists passing two dangerous bills. The first attacking LGBTQ freedom by undermining school curriculum & another reducing gun safety. The first bill attacks our LGBTQ community by forcing teachers to out LGBTQ students to their parents & categorize lessons around race & gender as “controversial,” requiring parental review. The bill will soon be considered by the Wisconsin Senate where the Republican supermajority will likely send this bill to the governor’s desk. The second GOP bill passed entirely along partisan lines would reduce transparency around gun sales. Abhi Rahman, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Communications Director stated, “Republicans in Wisconsin wasted no time this week in advancing their dangerous, backward agenda during the legislative session. From erasing LGBTQ+ identities in schools to loosening common-sense gun regulations, Republican legislation strips Wisconsinites of their core freedoms & safety. The DLCC is focused on building Democratic power in both chambers to prevent Republican supermajorities in both chambers, which would surely override Gov. Evers’ veto power to pass an onslaught of dangerous MAGA legislation. Wisconsin is at the forefront of the battle for fundamental freedoms.” Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin concluded, “Right now I am working tirelessly to ensure Democrats, from President Biden on down, win the critical swing state of Wisconsin & protect our fundamental rights & freedoms. As members of the LGBTQ+ community, I encourage you to stay involved, stay active & work alongside your community to preserve our progress, defend our rights & ensure our society moves forward, not backward.” For More Info… 


Sharon Stone Art Exhibition Extended

Fierce LGBTQ ally Sharon Stone's east coast premiere of her art exhibition entitled "Sharon Stone: Welcome to My Garden" has been extended until February 20th at C. Parker Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. Her art has received praise by collectors & art world luminaries including Jerry Saltz the Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine & winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. The show features 19 paintings by Stone & is the first time her artworks are exhibited outside of Los Angeles. Sharon Stone stated, “I created these works to understand the essence of pure creativity that comes from heartfelt truth, to let go of the noise, the judgments & the pollution of our societal pulls.” Stone is internationally recognized as a global cultural leader with honors including the Women Making History Award from the National Women’s History Museum, the Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award, the Nobel Peace Summit Award Laureate, the Golden Globe Award, a Prime-time Emmy Award & an Academy Award Nomination. She was also named a Commander of the Order of Arts & Letters in France, the 2023 Courage Award, the Harvard Humanitarian Award & as a fierce LGBTQ ally the Human Rights Campaign Humanitarian Award. Stone was recently honored as the Global Citizen of the Year at the 2023 United Nations UNCA Awards. Stone’s immense talents & acute powers of observation have blossomed onto the painted medium. Her ability to observe & interpret human behavior & her capacity to turn human frailties into sources of strength, shine through in ways that are combative, conquering & victorious. For More Info… 


South Carolina Transgender Youth Ban

South Carolina lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted 82-23 in favor of H.4624 a bill that bans medically necessary healthcare for transgender youth under the age of 18 in South Carolina. The bill also prevents public funds from being used to cover the cost of transition-related healthcare for youth & adults & encourages the “outing” of transgender youth by teachers & school staff. The bill now heads to the Senate. Rhys Chambers SC United for Justice & Equality & HRC stated, “The House voted to advance the cruel H.4624 even after emotional testimony in opposition from nearly 50 South Carolinians, the condemnation of every major medical group in the country & many SC doctors & thousands of emails sent from every corner of South Carolina. This ban will cause so much anguish, chaos & confusion for trans youth, their family members & their loved ones, all while the legality of these bans is being adjudicated in many other states. There is no reason to pass this bill & it is imperative that the Senate now reject it.” An estimated 3,700 transgender youth under 18 live in South Carolina so that this bill is targeting less than 0.07% of the state’s population & not every trans youth is accessing this medical care. This just adds to the surge of anti-transgender legislation that has passed all over the country in the past two years. FYI, until 2021 no states had laws that banned transgender youth from accessing this healthcare. SC United for Justice & Equality envisions a South Carolina where everyone can thrive, with a focus on the lived & legal equality of LGBTQ people. For More Info…

GLAAD Accepts Governor’s Emmy Award

The highlight of last night’s 75th Primetime Emmy Awards was GLAAD receiving the prestigious Governor’s Award for its “Culture Changing Impact” on the television entertainment industry. This was epic for our LGBTQ community & GLAAD to be finally recognized after 40 years of commitment & activism of changing hearts & minds. This is especially poignant at a time when our community is still dealing with over 600 anti LGBTQ bills in states across the country. When I won my Emmy back in 1982 I couldn’t be my authentic self in fear of being fired from CBS. So we have definitely come a long way since then but we still have a long way to go. In her acceptance speech Sarah Kate Ellis GLAAD President & CEO stated, “So many people have worked tirelessly to get LGBTQ representation here. For us this work is personal, for me, it’s about my wife & our kids. What the world sees on TV directly influences how we treat each other & the decisions we make in our living rooms, schools, at work & at the ballot box. The world urgently needs culture changing stories about transgender people. Because more Americans say they have seen a ghost than know a trans person. When you don’t know people, it’s easy to demonize them. Visibility creates understanding & opens doors, it’s life-saving. Our community has achieved so much & yet, we are still being villainized with cruel & harmful lies. Now is the time to take action – to support everyone in the LGBTQ community, because this story is still being told and we all can be the heroes. Thank you to the Television Academy & the Board of Governors.” 

Alabama Transgender Youth Medical Ban

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an order allowing Alabama’s ban on medical care for transgender adolescents to take effect. This order grants a request by the state of Alabama to stay the trial court’s 2022 decision blocking the law from being enforced while the challenge against it proceeds. Lawyers representing parents of transgender adolescents stated, “Alabama’s transgender healthcare ban will harm thousands of transgender adolescents across the state & will put parents in the excruciating position of not being able to get the medical care their children need to thrive. The district court issued its preliminary order blocking the ban after hearing days of testimony from parents, doctors & medical experts about the devastating impact of this ban & the lack of any medical justification for it. Today’s ruling will hurt parents & children in the state. We will continue to challenge this unlawful ban & to support parents & their kids in pushing back against the dangerous reality of being denied access to necessary, best practice medical care.” As we reported last August a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit had reversed the district court’s May, 2022 decision preventing the ban from taking effect. A full trial on the constitutionality of the ban is planned to take place in federal district court in August 2024. Plaintiffs in Boe v. Marshall are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) & the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). They are joined in the litigation by co-counsel King & Spalding LLP and Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. 

Activist Kenneth J. Mitchell Honored

Kenneth J. Mitchell will be presented with the Carmen Vázquez SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging at this year’s National LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change conference in New Orleans. Mitchell is a lifelong activist who has spent 5 decades fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people, people living with HIV & the Black community. He has made a huge impact on his hometown of New Orleans helping found the Louisiana Lesbian & Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), the Langston/Jones Society & Men of Color New Orleans. Mitchell is also a founding board member of New Orleans Advocates for LGBTQ+ Elders (NOAGE). Mitchell stated, “Ever since coming out, it has been a passion of mine to build bridges, enlighten others & to use my talents & resources to help individuals & society heal from the damaging effects of homophobia & its ripple effects. Freeing people in the LGBTQIA+ communities frees us all. While the so-called victims benefit, so do perpetrators who can free themselves of hate. Bigotry & prejudice hold a society back, interfering with unrealized & untapped potential. The more we chip away at heterosexism & other “isms” - sexism, racism, etc. - the closer we come to heaven on earth. We must remember to respond to hate with tough love, as Bayard Rustin & others taught us. When it's about freedom, justice & expanding the definition of love, what could be wrong with that?” The Carmen Vázquez SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging is presented to someone whose work exemplifies outstanding leadership in their advocacy for LGBTQ+ elders. The National LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change conference takes place in New Orleans from January 17th to 21st. 

Florida Bills Filed Against Gov. DeSantis

Florida lawmakers have filed a suite of bills firing back against dangerous laws backed by Gov. DeSantis that undermine parental rights & personal freedom in Florida. The proposals focus on health care access & education rights. Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida Public Policy Director stated, “Governor DeSantis has taken away our right to seek the best health care for ourselves & our children & instead gives that power to politicians. He has forced out trained educators & replaced them with book-banning extremists dedicated to surveillance in our schools, not quality instruction.” Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones & Representative Anna V. Eskamani filed the “Health Care Freedom Act” (Senate Bill 1404, House Bill 1283) & state Senator Tracie Davis & Representative Michele Rayner filed the “Freedom to Learn Act” (Senate Bill 1414, House Bill 1355) to undo the many harms DeSantis inflicted upon Floridians. Rep. Anna V. Eskamani added, “Extreme politicians have stripped away the personal freedoms & parental rights of Floridians while paying lip service to those fundamental liberties. The Health Care Freedom Act restores the fundamental rights & freedoms of Floridians to make their own personal & potentially life-saving healthcare decisions without political interference.” Senator Shevrin Jones concluded, “This is about protecting patients, providing them dignity and autonomy & aligning our policies with the values of freedom. If the Senate wants to improve healthcare access, we need to remove discriminatory barriers to care & end political interference in Floridians’ personal medical decisions.” Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community. 

New Hampshire Attacking LGBTQ Rights

New Hampshire infamous for their slogan “Live Free or Die” has passed HB 396 & HB 619 bills that attack LGBTQ rights. The dangerous passed bills are now headed to the New Hampshire Senate. The bills will undermine the right to equal protection under the law for LGBTQ people by giving a license to discriminate against & segregate LGBTQ people in schools & other settings as well as make it more difficult for trans teenagers & their families to access appropriate health services supported by every major medical association. Linds Jakows, 603 Equality co-founder stated, “Today’s failure by the N.H. House to protect LGBTQ+ rights is a shameful beginning to 2024 in a state that has historically made overwhelmingly clear that it supports & respects LGBTQ+ identities. Trans kids & their families need to make private healthcare decisions that are best for them & they shouldn’t be discriminated against & segregated in schools, carceral settings or other spaces. We will continue to fight to ensure the rights of LBGTQ+ people are not violated by these dangerous, discriminatory bills as they make their way through the legislative process. When today’s anti-transgender bills get to Governor Sununu’s desk, he should promptly veto them, because ‘it’s the right thing to do,’ as he said when he signed New Hampshire’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination law in 2018.” Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director, Seacoast Outright concluded, “Our core value as Granite Staters is that every person deserves to live free as exactly who they are. We are thankful for every legislator who voted in support of LGBTQ+ youth & their families. We continue to invite our elected officials to join us in working for a brighter future where everyone is understood, valued & protected.”

Minnesota LGBTQ Org Gets 200K Grant

The Queer Equity Institute [QEI] in Minnesota announced that they have secured a $200,000 Vibrant & Equitable Communities grant from the McKnight Foundation. The funding through this grant will be directed towards QEI's groundbreaking fellowship program, specifically designed to uplift & empower Minnesota LGBTQ workers, artists & individuals over the next two years. Leigh Finke, Executive Director & State Representative stated, “We are beyond pleased to receive this funding. To support Queer individuals actively working to make the Twin Cities a better place is the crux of this work. Being able to get started & support these incredible individuals during our first two years of operation is beyond incredible.” Through the Fellowship program which is QEI’s cornerstone initiative to provide essential resources, mentorship & a platform for LGBTQ individuals to pursue their creative & advocacy endeavors. By championing the diverse voices within the community QEI seeks to create a more vibrant, equitable & inclusive society. The Fellowship program will be instrumental in creating a platform for LGBTQ individuals to engage in community-driven projects, advocacy & initiatives that directly impact their communities. Queer Equity Institute is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to advancing the rights & well-being of the LGBTQ community. Committed to fostering inclusivity & social equity, QEI engages in impactful initiatives that address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals. QEI stands at the forefront of the fight for equality aiming to reshape societal narratives & create lasting positive change for all members of the LGBTQ community. Their mission is to inspire & support LGBTQ civic engagement & empower LGBTQ leaders to ensure an equitable future for all. 

Creating Change Conference (AUDIO)

Kicking off the New Year I talked with Cathy Renna, Communications Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force about the upcoming Creating Change Conference that takes place January 17th to January 21st at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, LA. Creating Change is the foremost political, leadership & skills-building conference for our LGBTQ social justice movement. This year’s 36th annual conference theme is “Queer Power, Action & Joy” with Kierra Johnson, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director to deliver the opening State of the Movement plenary. Raquel Willis the award-winning activist, author & media strategist dedicated to Black transgender liberation will emcee & host the conference. Creating Change continues its long tradition of presenting compelling keynote speakers, presentations, annual awards & more than 100 workshops & caucuses. This year’s Indigenous Leadership Award Honoree will be presented to Jean-Luc Pierite, scholar, advocate & founder of InDigiFab (Tunica-Biloxi). There will also be fun events including special guest Jason Rodriguez the talented dancer/actor from the hit Fox series Pose who will be presenting a workshop on the history, importance & elements of VOGUE. Other fun events will include Gayme Night, Opening Cruise & the Agents of Change Masquerade Ball. Then Big Freedia the nationally recognized hip-hop artist, TV personality & larger-than-life ambassador of New Orleans Bounce music will be dancing her way to Creating Change to perform at the closing plenary. Since 1988 Creating Change has created networking opportunities & inspiration for thousands of committed people to develop & hone their activist skills. I talked to Cathy about what she hopes to accomplish at this year’s Creating Change Conference & her spin on our LGBTQ issues. LISTEN  

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